Travelling to a foreign country is always a bit of a challenge, though hopefully, and in general, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Nevertheless, those challenges are often made more daunting by the language difference. That is why, regardless of where you travel, if the national language is other than your own, it will save you a lot of confusion and anxiety if you learn at least some simple phrases. Read on to learn some of the words and phrases that will benefit you the most while travelling. Here they will obviously be in Spanish, but it’s a good list to keep in mind for any language.
This one’s obvious, but also one of the easiest to master. People always appreciate it when you at least attempt to greet them in their language.
- Hola (OH-lah): hello
- Adios (ah-dee-OHS): goodbye
- Por favor (POUR fah-VOHR): please
- Gracias (GRAH-cee-ahs): thank you
- ¿Cómo está? (CO-mo ess-TAH): How are you? (this is the formal conjugation, as opposed to the informal estás)
- Yo no hablo español (YO NO AH-blow ess-pah-NYOL): I don’t speak Spanish.
- No entiendo (NO en-tee-EN-doh) or No comprendo (NO cohm-PREN-doh): I don’t understand.
An important part of travel is eating, in case you didn’t know. And since you’ll mostly be sans kitchen, you will probably find yourself in a lot of restaurants, so knowing how to say important words or the names of your favourite meals will make your dining experience a lot less confusing and more satisfying to all involved. This is especially important if you have any dietary restrictions.
- Entrada (en-TRAH-dah): appetizer
- Plato fuerte (PLAH-toe FWEHR-tay): Entree
- Postre (POH-stray): dessert
- Carne (CAR-nay): meat
- Pollo (POY-yo): chicken
- Vegetales (veh-heh-TAL-es) or verduras (vehr-DOO-rahs): vegetables
- Agua (AH-gwa): water
- Café (cah-FAY): coffee
- Vino (VEE-no): wine
- Cerveza (sehr-VAY-sah): beer
- ¿Tiene…? (tee-EH-nay): Does it have (or contain)…
- Sin (SEEN): without
Unless you’re traveling by car, boat, or on foot, you’re probably going to find yourself in at least one airport, which can be stressful enough even when you do know the language.
- Aterrizaje (ah-tehr-ee-ZAH-hay): landing
- Salidas (sah-LEE-dahs): departures
- Llegadas (yeh-GAH-dahs): arrivals
- Cinturrón de seguridad (seen-too-ROHN DAY seh-goo-ree-DAHD): seatbelt
- ¿A qué hora sale/llega el vuelo? (AH KAY OH-rah SAH-lay/ YEH-gah ELL VWEH-lo): What time does the flight leave/arrive?
Asking for something can be one of the most frustrating experiences while traveling, for everyone involved, so even basic, polite commands can get you far. And don’t forget please and thank you!
- Déme… (DEH-meh): Give me, as in, Give me a steak and a glass of wine. This is the respectful form, I promise.
- Quiero… (key-EH-roh): I want…
- Puedo pedir… (PWEH-doh peh-DEER): Can I order…
- Necesito… (neh-seh-SEE-toe): I need…
Location & Directions
Arguably some of the most important words to know, locations and directions will allow you to direct taxi drivers to your hotel or ask passerby how to get somewhere.
- ¿Dónde está…? (DOHN-day es-TAH): Where is…?
- Izquierda (izz-key-EHR-dah): left
- Derecha (deh-REH-cha): right
- Derecho (deh-REH-cho) or recto (REK-toe): straight
- Cuadra (KWA-drah): city block
As far as I know, there’s nowhere you can travel to without having to use money, so it might be worthwhile to brush up on related words, as well as numbers.
- Dinero (dee-NARE-oh) or plata (PLAH-tah): money
- Monedas (moh-NAY-dahs) or sueltos (SWEL-toes): change or coins
- ¿Cuánto cuesta…? (KWAN-toe KWES-tah): How much is…?
- Banco (BAHN-co): bank
- Casa de cambio (CAH-sah DAY CAHM-bee-oh): a place to exchange money
- Cajero (ka-HAIR-oh): ATM
Considering most of us carry around cell phones these days, we generally know what time it is, but it is still helpful to be able to ask what time something starts, for example. Again, knowing at least the first twenty numbers helps here as well.
- ¿Qué hora es/son? (KAY OH-rah ESS/SOHN): What time is it?
- Son las… (SOHN LAHS): It is… (2:30).
- ¿A qué hora empieza/ termina…(AH KAY OH-rah em-pee-EH-zah/ tehr-MEE-nah): What time does it start/end…?
In general, nothing too bad happens while travelling, but just in case, it’s smart to know how to say things like “hospital” or know what the local emergency numbers are. If you have any health problems or allergies, make sure you know how to say these as well.
- Hospital (oh-spee-TAHL): hospital
- Ambulancia (ahm-boo-LAN-see-ah): ambulance
- Policía (poh-lih-SEE-ah): police
- Emergencia (eh-mare-HEN-see-ah): emergency
- Embajada (em-bah-HA-dah): embassy
What other words or phrases have you found helpful while traveling? Share below!